Monday, May 28, 2012

Happy diabetes anniversary to me!

I have been diabetic for ten years this weekend.

I don't know the exact date I was diagnosed, but I do know I went into the emergency room the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, and spent the entire weekend (four nights) in the hospital.  I was placed in the surgery ward due to a lack of beds the night of my intake, but the downside was that the hospital seemed to me, at least where I was, to be rather understaffed.

Perhaps that was why, or perhaps it was lack of communication, but the doctors who were overseeing me couldn't get my blood sugar down to save my life.  They would send someone in to check my blood sugar shortly before lunch, for example, and it was always high, but by the time they made a decision on how much insulin to give me, someone else had come in with my lunch.  I didn't know it at the time, but they needed to be correcting for my high and bolusing for my meals.  Since they weren't doing both, my blood sugar just continued to be high.

I was lucky in several respects, though.  One, I was blessed that Lantus had arrived on the market a year or so before I was diagnosed (or at least that's what the nurses told me).  Lantus was revolutionary for diabetics when it came out, eliminating the need to time meals and limit carb intake quite so much, and I am thankful that I was able to go straight to the good stuff, rather than having to muddle through on its predecessors.  (I've been on NPH a couple of times since my diagnosis, and my impression is that being on that stuff all the time would be a truly miserable way to live!)

Sometimes it's hard to believe that was ten years ago now, and other times I'm amazed that I was ever not diabetic, if you know what I mean -- it's so much a part of me now that I can't imagine life without it.  I've been diabetic for nearly a third of my life, after all -- I know many type 1 diabetics were diagnosed in childhood, which makes it far more ingrained in their lives; but at the same time, if you think about it, I've been diabetic for nearly all of my adult life.

What about you?  How long have you been diabetic?  Does it feel like a part of your life, or do you still feel like it's something that doesn't belong?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Statins may cause higher blood sugars

Remember my decision to stay off of Lipitor?  It looks like I may have made the right decision:

FDA adds new safety information to statin drugs

The FDA is adding new warnings to the labels on statins, including Lipitor.  Apparently it's been discovered that statins are causing elevated blood sugars in those who take them.  In fact, in non-diabetics, taking statins increases your chances of getting diabetes by 50 percent for longtime users.  Fifty percent!  It's almost criminal to be putting people on statins, knowing that!  The second article says that the benefits of statins for some people outweigh the risk of getting diabetes, but that seems rather unlikely to me, since developing diabetes (type 2) increases your risk of heart attack dramatically.

Not that I have to worry about increasing my risk of getting diabetes (haha), but I certainly wouldn't want to be on a medication known for increasing blood sugars!  I'm so glad I got off Lipitor all those years ago — and the grapefruit juice has been working just fine for keeping my LDL down!  In fact, last I was checked, perhaps 9 months ago, it was well under 100.  If I have any readers who are interested in finding alternatives to statins for lowering their cholesterol, I highly recommend drinking 8 ounces of not-from-concentrate grapefruit juice every day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Symptoms of high versus low

I remember when I was first diagnosed as diabetic, about nine and a half years ago, someone (a nurse at the hospital when I was there, I think) telling me that high and low symptoms can be very similar — enough so that you may not know the difference.

Obviously she wasn't diabetic, because while there are some similarities, I've never thought it difficult at all to tell which I am.

Crashing, to me, is perfectly obvious.  I get tunnel vision.  I get shaky.  I can't concentrate.  In short, I feel like shit.

Going high can feel like shit too, but in a different way.  I often get heartburn, a stomach ache, and/or a headache.  Sometimes I feel dizzy (hence the minor similarity to crashing) but it's in a different way than when I'm low.  And if I'm high for a long time, of course, I get dehydrated.  My hands and even my eyes start feeling dry, which is a perfectly miserable experience.

One other symptom of going high that I've noticed is irritability.  It's not like the second my blood sugar goes up, I get grouchy.  It's more like if I'm high over an extended period of time — for instance, if I'm struggling with highs for several days in a row — I start feeling illogically angry about everything.  I've gotten irritable when I've crashed before, but it's rare.  Usually I know I'm crashing right away, whereas I don't always realize I'm high unless I check my blood sugar, so I think that makes a difference.  If I know I'm cranky because I'm crashing, for instance, it's much easier to stop being cranky once I realize the cause.  When I'm high that's a much more difficult attitude adjustment to make.

In fact, that was one of my unknown symptoms in the months leading up to my diagnosis: I was much more easily provoked to anger.  I worked at a preschool at the time, and I had noticed that I was getting angry at the kids more easily when they didn't listen or misbehaved.  I didn't know why it was happening at the time, but I definitely noticed that I was having to work harder to control my temper.

What about you?  What symptoms do you have when you're crashing, and what are your symptoms when your blood sugar is high?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Medical studies: What's in it for me?

I was telling a friend of mine recently that I was going to be participating in another medical study, and I was rather surprised when her response was, "How does this benefit you?"  I've been participating in studies for several years, and I can tell you, that's the first time I've ever received that particular response.

I won't lie.  There are plenty of ways in which it does benefit me to participate in these studies, and that's part of why I do.  I get paid — more for some studies than others — but because I don't get that money until the study is over (sometimes 4 or 6 months), that's not a major deciding factor.  Many of the studies provide my insulin, needles, and test strips for duration of the study, which is a huge incentive for me, especially since my co-pays have gone up.  Sometimes they provide gas cards (usually $20) for every visit you have to make to the doctor's office, which is nice considering the price of gas lately.  Some study participants have to drive a long distance to get to the clinic, but I don't (and my car gets decent gas mileage), so those gas cards generally help to keep me in gas throughout the duration of the study.

I'd be lying if I said these weren't influential reasons why I do the studies, but they aren't the only reasons.  I like being part of the process of new medications and devices coming out.  I've gotten to experience continuous glucose monitors and new insulins this way.  Usually these studies are a ways into the testing, too, so I don't have many concerns for my health and safety, and I can always back out of the study if that changes.  And of course, there is always the satisfaction of knowing that I'm helping these new medications and devices become available to everyone.  It's hardly my biggest reason for doing the studies, but it's still a good feeling.

So I'd say there's quite bit in it for me — but really, do I have to prove that in order for this to be considered a good thing?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Diabetes isn't a death sentence

There was an article on USA Today the other day that I really appreciated.  Not only did it specify that it was talking about type 1 diabetes, it also was attempting to dispel one of the fear-inducing myths surrounding diabetes: that as a type 1 diabetic, you are going to die young.

Life expectancy improves for type 1 diabetics

See?  Isn't that beautiful?  "Type 1" clearly specified, even in the title!

The article looks at life expectancies for type 1 diabetics in 2 groups: diagnosed between 1950 and 1964, and diagnosed between 1965 and 1980.  Life expectancy for the first group was 53.4 years, versus 68.8 years for the second group.  Compare that to an average of 72.4 years for the general population.

Of course, the article doesn't address people diagnosed after 1980, probably because none of us are old enough to start dying yet.  (Ha, ha.)  But I can only imagine that our life expectancy has gone up even more, and might even be about equal to the life expectancy of everyone else.  In fact, because having type 1 diabetes makes you so health-conscious, I wouldn't be surprised if our life expectancy is even longer than the general population — we certainly pay more attention to diet and exercise than the average person does!

This just goes to show how much of a difference modern medicine can make.  With modern insulins and glucose meters, pumps, and continuous glucose monitors, we are given such precise control over our blood sugars that we can actually mimic the insulin production of a normal body fairly closely.  And if you keep your blood sugars within normal range most of the time, then theoretically you shouldn't have any of the complication of diabetes that come from having high blood sugar for extended periods of time.  It may take a lot of work, but it's essentially like not having diabetes at all!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Progress on preventative vaccines for type 1 diabetes

One of the top headlines on USA Today the other day reported mixed results on type 1 diabetes vaccine trials.  One of the trials seems very promising — I don't understand all of this, and by the way the article is written I'm not sure the journalist did either, but it sounds like the vaccine essentially turns the patient's T cells into cells that protect beta (insulin-producing cells) instead of attacking them.  The drug is in phase 2 trials, and so far so good — although it doesn't prevent diabetes, it looks like it can at least delay the failure of insulin-producing cells.

The article also reports on another trial, one that didn't work.  The second trial was also looking for an antigen that would preserve insulin production in diabetics who were just diagnosed.  The article says that the antigen works in mice, but not in humans.

What I find curious is that they are only testing these drugs on people who have already been diagnosed.  Why?  Modern medicine does enable us to identify people who will become diabetic, but aren't yet.  For instance, the children of type 1 diabetics are often tested for signs of an autoimmune response, such as elevated T cells.  I think it would be much more interesting to test these drugs on people who are destined to be diabetic, and see how long the vaccines would hold off their diagnosis.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Say which type of diabetes you mean!

If you have read my earlier posts, you know that one of my pet peeves is people — especially journalists and scientists — not specifying which type of diabetes they mean.

Take, for instance, this article on the rapid increase in diabetes cases.  Anyone who knows about diabetes can figure out that the article is talking about type 2, but they don't say it anywhere it in the article — not once.

Now, I don't have anything against type 2 diabetes, and I agree that the rapid increase is alarming.  However, I think it's important to note which type of diabetes you are talking about.  A rapid increase in type 1 cases would mean something very, very different than a rapid increase in type 2 cases.